Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Only One of Four Districts Headed to Red Lake Run-Off Election

Medical Marijuana Question Approved with 80% of vote


Red Lake Nation held their biennial election on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Incumbents from Red Lake, Little Rock and Ponemah all won re-election gaining more than 50% of the vote. However, none of the seven candidates from Redby reached that threshold. This means a late July run-off election between the top two winners.

Red Lakers also approved a referendum on whether to allow medical cannabis within the nation's boundaries. The measure was approved 80% to 20%.


Fourteen candidates vied for four district representative seats on the Red Lake Tribal Council in the general election held Wednesday, May 20, 2020. After passing a criminal background check, the candidates were certified in April.

If a candidate receives 50% of the vote plus one, they are the declared winner. If no one attains this threshold in any and all seats, a run-off election is scheduled sixty days after the conclusion of all certifications, challenges or recounts. (July 20 if uncontested, July 30 if contested)

For Redby District Representative, none of seven candidates reached the 50% threshold resulting in a run-off election between the top-two vote-getters. Coming in first was Incumbent Allen D. Pemberton with 41.22% of the vote. Herman D. Donnell at 19.32% came in second. Pemberton and Donnell will meet in the only contest of the run-off.

For Red Lake Representative, incumbent Robert "Bob" Smith achieved the required 50% +1 at 55.21% and is so elected.

For the Little Rock Representative, incumbent Michelle Barrett-Cobenais also reached the required threshold with 63.01%

For Ponemah District Representative, Glenda J. Martin, having no opponent, received 100% of the vote cast.

Cannabis Referendum: Minnesota's Red Lake Nation Votes 80% Yay on medical marijuana May 20, 2020

Red Lake Nation could become the only tribal nation to have a medical cannabis program in Minnesota that will be retailing medical cannabis in flower form. Red Lake may also be among the first in the Country.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo indicating that tribal nations could legalize marijuana as long as they followed the same guidelines that applied to the states that had legalized it.

A clarifying memo in December 2014 stated that the federal government's non-interference policies that applied to the 50 states, would also apply to the 326 recognized American Indian reservations.

Since 2014, there have been a number of attempts to move forward by pro-cannabis advocates in Red Lake that had been met with mixed reviews.

Right now in Minnesota, cannabis is legal for those with qualifying medical conditions in liquid, pill or vaporized forms. At Red Lake Nation, the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis will be much longer, adding depression, chronic pain, and those recovering from opioid addiction would likely qualify.

Red Lake Nation, unique in Indian Country, resides on aboriginal lands. The main reservation was never ceded to the United States. Red Lake also are stewards several acres of land spread throughout Beltrami and Lake of the Woods Counties, including 70% of the Northwest Angle. All Red Lake lands are held in common. The tribe is subject to federal but not state law.

Several tribal nations across the country are in different stages of exploring growing hemp and/or legalizing cannabis, both medial and recreational, to persons 18 years and older.

The Oglala Lakota voted March 10 to legalize both medical and adult use, but could face stiff opposition from the state of South Dakota.

Oglala voters approved medical marijuana by an 82% margin, and 74% approved legalizing adult-use marijuana. Assuming the results are upheld, the tribe will be the only one in the US to create a cannabis market in a state where the plant is otherwise illegal.

Red Lake Election Results

Redby District

Allen D. Pemberton, Incumbent 256 41.22%

Herman D. Donnell 120 19.32%

Sheldon "Skin" Brown 20 3.22 %

Kevin L. Jones 56 9.02%

Gary R. Auginash, Sr. 85 13.69%

Michael J. Cobenais 66 10.63%

Rodney D. Prentice, Jr. 18 2.90%

Total 621

Red Lake District

Robert "Bob" Smith, Incumbent 509 55.21%

David F. Desjarlait 294 31.89%

Donovan M. May 119 12.91%

Total 922

Little Rock District

Michelle Barrett-Cobenais 247 63.01%

Sherilyn "Tweety" Neadeau-Benais 89 22.70%

Chris G. Jourdain 56 14.29%

Total 392

Ponemah District Votes Percent

Glenda J. Martin 262 100.00%

Total 262

Advisory Question (Cannabis)

For 1765 80.59%

Against 425 19.41%

Total 2190


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